People ask me all the time during the winter “How are the vines doing?” In our region right now they aren’t doing anything except resting but the folks who manage the vineyard, well, they don’t necessarily get much rest.
Vines start going into dormancy late in Fall as the days get shorter and colder. At that time the leaves that were green most of the growing season that, through photosynthesis, produced sugars that not only sweetened the grape crop but kept the vine alive and thriving turn yellow and fall off. The vines then become dormant — the saps and sugars that circulated through the plant mostly move from the plant tissues above ground into the roots. The colder the weather the deeper the degree of dormancy. In our climate there usually is no damage from winter weather but in some colder climates the chill can damage or kill vines so we generally don’t have much to be concerned about here on the Central Coast in that regard.
Although the vines are resting, many activities occur in the vineyard during this time to keep the vineyard managers busy. At Hilltop Ranch we took the opportunity with a break in the weather in early March to prune the vines , mow the cover crops and spray the vines against mildew. The soil there is relatively shallow and rocky so entering the vineyard with a tractor is not as much of a concern as it can be in vineyards with deeper, muddier soils. The amount of rain we have had will cause the cover crop and weeds under the vines to grow quickly so cultivation under the vines and mowing the cover crop within the rows will be a pretty intensive process and a lot of work here on out until the beginning of summer. In addition to replenishing groundwater, the precipitation we received also has flushed out any salt buildup in the soil that accumulated during the drought from minerals in the well water that was used during summer irrigation. Due to those two factors I am expecting that once the vines wake up and start to break their buds we should have very vigorous growth and — barring a damaging late frost — pretty good fruit set this year.
– Winemaker Annette Hoff